The inside linebacking room built by the Pittsburgh Steelers is an interesting one. At the head of it is Devin Bush, the blue-chip, top 10 pick seen as a future star and foundational piece for the defense. Alongside Bush is Vince Williams, the seasoned veteran playing in a likely final season. And then there is Robert Spillane, a undrafted player who stepped up and surprised as an injury fill-in last season.
Speaking with the media Wednesday after OTAs, Bush spoke about both players, and how they provide a lot to a group integral to the Steelers’ defense. Bush started with Williams, released but brought back this offseason by Pittsburgh, and serving as a mentor to he, Spillane, and others at their position.
“Having an experienced guy in the room, in the linebacking group, just somebody that has a lot of knowledge and a lot of experience from the game, and being able to develop younger guys and develop guys like myself to play bigger roles in the future,” Bush said, in describing what Williams brought to the team and position.
This is the ninth season for Williams, a sixth-round pick by Pittsburgh in 2013 out of Florida State. Beginning as depth, Williams climbed the chart and has started for the Steelers each of the last four seasons, with almost 500 career tackles.
That is nearly double the experience of Bush and Spillane combined, who have spent five seasons in the NFL, three as starters. Bush starred as a rookie after Pittsburgh traded up to draft him in 2019, topping 100 tackles, intercepting two passes, forcing a fumble, and recovering four. His 2020 season ended at five games after a torn ACL.
Bush’s pedigree as a blue-chip prospect is the opposite of Spillane’s, as an undrafted player cut after one season by Tennessee. Pittsburgh signed him months later, and Bush’s injury opened up a door for Spillane to start.
In seven starts and 12 total games, Spillane made 45 tackles, recovered a fumble, and returned an interception for a touchdown. It was a strong enough season that he unexpectedly worked his way into the team’s plans for 2021 at inside linebacker. Bush spoke about his injury replacement, and what Spillane brought to the team while he recovered from his injury.
“I think it’s going to be a fun thing to do, just to get out there with Rob. I watched him a lot last year, and I like his game a lot. Always have been a fan of him, ever since I saw him play the position. I expect Rob to take off where he left off last year, and for us to feed off each other,” Bush said.
An injury to Spillane knocked him out near the end of the 2020 season. Now back and healthy, and with Bush nearing 100 percent in his ACL recovery, the two will finally get to share the field more often, alongside the veteran Williams, to comprise the core of the team’s group at inside linebacker.